Posted on June 22, 2020

Lessons from the ‘Seattle Autonomous Zone’

Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, June 22, 2020

Photo credit: Ochlo/Wikimedia.

At about 2:30 AM on Saturday, June 20, an unidentified suspect killed one man and critically wounded another in Seattle. The dead man was black. See here for footage of the scene.

Late last night, there was another shooting that left a man critically wounded.

Both took place in in Seattle’s six-block “police-free” zone, first known as CHAZ (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone) and now also called CHOP (Capitol Hill Organized (or Occupied) Protest). How did a major American city get a “police-free” zone?

After George Floyd’s death, protesters marched in Seattle just as they did in many cities. The protests were unruly and occasionally violent. One June 1, the Seattle Police Officers Guild said some protesters simply wanted violence rather than protest. On June 5, Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best (a black woman) announced that the police would not use tear gas for the next 30 days. On Saturday, June 6, a large group of medical professionals, evidently unconcerned about social distancing, marched for Black Lives Matter. That night, several police officers were injured, and the Seattle Police Officers Guild protested the ban on tear gas.

The next day was even more chaotic. A man named Nikolas Fernandez shot a black man after driving into a crowd. Mr. Fernandez said he feared for his life after the crowd began kicking his car. The black man, Dan Gregory, had punched Mr. Fernandez in the face, but Mr. Gregory claims he was trying to stop the car from hurting people. Local media gave Mr. Gregory positive coverage. In the resulting chaos, police ignored the ban and used tear gas to drive back protesters.

The following day, Monday, June 8, three council members, Kshama Sawant, Teresa Mosqueda, and Tammy Morales, called for the mayor to resign, claiming the police had turned part of the city into a “war zone.” Police Chief Best said her department would decrease its local “footprint” that afternoon.

What happened next is still a mystery. Police walked away from the East Precinct building, but the mayor and police chief both say they never issued an order to retreat. Some officers say they got phone calls and text messages from colleagues telling them to report to the West Precinct. Some police equipment was moved out of the East Precinct but some has disappeared. Officers who were not on duty left their uniforms and personal belongings behind. One protester speculated that police had set a trap: walk away from the building, wait for protesters to burn it, and then swoop in to make arrests. That didn’t happen.

Protesters convinced the city to let them set up their own barricades, and the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) was born. An “autonomous zone” is a well-known concept in anarchist circles. It is an area outside of state control and unrecognized by other governments. “You are now leaving the USA” said one sign at a barricade. Anarchists, protesters, and residents organized art exhibits, gardens (for “blacks and indigenous folks and their plant allies”) and gave speeches. Assistant Police Chief Deanna Nollette said the police wanted their building back, but wanted “discussions that will lead to that,” not confrontation.

Self-appointed authorities took over. CHAZ residents conducted at least one deportation over their impromptu border wall, expelling a pro-life activist. Technically, this was assault. Members of left-wing gun clubs patrolled the area, which they claim was necessary to “discourage white supremacist groups.” Some were members of the John Brown Gun Club, which boasted the late terrorist Willem Van Spronsen as a member.

Raz Simone, a rapper whom Tucker Carlson semi-jokingly called the CHAZ “monarch,” became the area’s best known leader. On June 10, his livestream showed him handing out rifles to people, some of whom appeared very young. In Washington state, it is illegal for a minor to carry a weapon. In another video, his group threatened a man for spraying graffiti over someone else’s graffiti. “We are the police of this community now,” a voice says.

On June 11, Tucker Carlson devoted a segment of his show to “welcoming the world’s newest country.” President Trump told Mayor Durkan and Washington governor Jay Inslee to “take back your city NOW” and said he would do it if they wouldn’t. Both mocked the President, and he did nothing. Mayor Durkan told CNN the autonomous zone was like a “block party,” and could be a “summer of love.”

The media praised CHAZ:

  • The New York Times called it a “homeland for racial justice.”.
  • The Stranger, a local paper, said it was “exceedingly chill.”
  • Vox said the neighborhood “flourished” after police left.

Not everyone was happy. The six-block area is dense with businesses and apartments. People who live there are trapped. Some residents hate the constant noise, while others think CHAZ/CHOP’s message is getting lost in the block-party atmosphere. Every business has been vandalized and many are boarded up. Police Chief Best said police could no longer respond effectively to rapes, robberies, or other crimes. Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette said “anecdotally” that businesses are being extorted. Chief Best later said that wasn’t confirmed, but if owners were being shaken down, would they have felt safe talking about it?

On June 13, a black man walked into CHAZ and was cursed and called a “race traitor” because he was carrying an American flag. There was a near-brawl. Others walked in with American flags and were taunted. CHAZ-ites stole one of the flags and poured drinks on flag-wavers. Independent journalist Andy Ngo, who infiltrated the CHAZ in disguise, reported that it had developed an elaborate code of conduct, with whites warned not to “colonize” the area. One protester demanded that every white give $10 to a black person in the CHAZ.

One June 14, CHAZ-ites attacked journalist Kalen D’Almeida. He claims Raz Simone pointed him out for special treatment. On June 15, a man broke into a building that borders the CHAZ/CHOP area and tried to set the building on fire, but the owners stopped him. The police did not respond, because this is close to the police-free zone. A mob formed outside the business, demanding that the would-be arsonist be released. To appease the mob, he was let loose, but police have since arrested him. The next day, police arrested another man accused of sexual assault after he was detained by a CHAZ “medic.”

One man streamed his own property being stolen.

Last week, Seattle looked like as if it were permanently adjusting to CHAZ. City officials negotiated a compromise between residents and protesters, and set up new barriers to let traffic move through the area.

The city took a different position after the shooting on June 20. The mayor issued a statement saying the city would “make changes in partnership” with the protesters. Local news reported that “some Capitol Hill residents” want the police back. One man, who wisely didn’t want to be identified, said “residents and homeowners feel hostage.” The Washington Post reported that even after the shooting, some CHAZ/CHOP protesters were upset that police entered the area. Seattle councilwoman Kshama Sawant claimed that President Trump bears “direct responsibility” if the killing “turns out to be a right-wing attack.” Who will be responsible if the killer is a BLM protester?

Raz Simone blasted the fire department for not coming sooner to help the victim. “Self-reported peacekeepers” of CHAZ/CHOP, known as “Sentinels,” also criticized medics for not showing up quickly.

Seattle rescue workers will not enter a lawless area until it is secured by police, and the police reported an unruly crowd. Who can blame them for being cautious in an area dedicated to the idea that “All Cops Are Bastards” and patrolled by armed men who hate the police. Here is bodycam footage of what they faced.

On Sunday night, there was a fusillade of gunshots and a victim went to the hospital in serious condition.

CHAZ/CHOP is neither an independent nation, nor is it (yet) a Mad Max style dystopia. Shootings happen in cities with police, too. However, it is a fine example of anarcho-tyranny. The government is being far more lenient about violent crime and weapons violations than it was at Waco or Ruby Ridge. During the standoff over the Bundy Ranch and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon state police shot and killed Robert LaVoy Finicum and a judge dismissed a suit claiming this was wrongful death. It’s hard to imagine that white advocates would be allowed by city, state, and federal authorities to seize part of a major city and negotiate terms with the authorities. We would be arrested, shot, or burned alive like the people in Waco if a video emerged of us merrily distributing firearms.

Still, no matter how CHAZ/CHOP comes to an end, it teaches two lessons. First, it shows that radical leftists can’t build a society on their own. Like it or not, they need the people they hate. They want to be independent, but they also demand outside help. They can’t have it both ways. Last night’s shooting may prove to be the tipping point for CHAZ/CHOP. At the same time, we should remember — and file away for future reference — the conditions that made the zone possible: government spinelessness.